Feather & Flint

When Places Become Characters in Our Stories

September 24, 2016 2 Comments 1 Photos

In every city across the globe are the locations where the most significant moments of people's lives have played out. Which places hold the most emotional significance for you?

In a poignant series of photographs called Kiss & Tell (first introduced to me by Cup of Jo), photographer Sara Macel simply asked people, “Tell me a story about a kiss.” She then traveled to the exact location where their stories took place to recreate the scene and capture the memory, however many years later. She recalls, “In story after story, kiss after kiss, the location became a main character. In photographing the locations, I was able to have my own affair with this character—the space surrounding the kiss.” Researchers call this sense of emotional attachment to physical locations “place attachment” or “sense of place.”

I sometimes think about how in every city across the globe are the locations where the most significant moments of people’s lives have played out. At particularly dramatic landmarks, I imagine these memories overlapping each other throughout the decades—thousands of engagements clustered around the Eiffel Tower, and millions of tearful goodbyes throughout Penn Station and Heathrow Airport.

In the tiny Beacon Hill studio where I lived in college, built in 1899, the same exposed brick wall bore witness to countless tenants forging over a century’s worth of memories. My current home was inhabited by a single family from the time that it was built until we bought it last year. The walls where the most significant years of my life are now unfolding previously held fifty years of their stories and fingerprints. My own children will one day call the same rooms “home” that saw a previous generation grow from infancy into adulthood.

In Boston, there’s the Starbucks on Boylston Street where my greatest love story began with stolen glances and conversations across the worn wooden bar. There’s the Christian Science Center—a stunning reflecting pool surrounded by dramatic buildings that dwarf passersby—where the most elusive mystery of my life was set into motion. Every September, I inevitably find myself at the water’s edge, admiring the reflection of the globe lights in the black water, the skyscrapers presiding over Back Bay as I let the memory unfold before me once again, wanting just to stand in the location where it took place in an attempt to understand it. (But that’s a story for another time.)

To the majority of passersby, the places where my memories are set hold no more significance than any other place would; but perhaps, a few strangers whose footsteps overlap with mine remember them as the backdrop for their own treasured stories.

When Places Become Characters in Our Stories

Which places hold the most emotional significance for you? Does the concept of place attachment resonate with you? Tell me your stories in the comments below—I’d love to hear them!

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  1. Reply


    September 26, 2016

    Excellent post- thank you for sharing! I really like the idea of places as characters. As I was reading, I found the city of Jerusalem kept coming to mind. This is the city where my husband proposed to me while I was studying abroad. The city itself, especially the Old City, is already quite the character. Frequently the center of attention, her ancient walls have stood witness to the everyday compassion and conflict of the times. I feel honored to have this “character” play such an important role in my life and lucky to have a piece of her in a memory that I hold very dear.

    • Reply


      November 20, 2016

      Sarah – I LOVE this! The perfect example–thank you so much for sharing!